Autumn is often synonymous with the return of the eagerly anticipated pumpkin spice latte. But as you sip on the cinnamon-spiked, soul-warming beverage, don’t forget to reap the benefits of those vibrant orange gourds during their peak harvest time. Pumpkin is loaded with fiber to aid digestion, potassium to support blood pressure and cardiovascular health, and vitamins A and C, which have antioxidant properties that boost your immune system. And there’s more to this nutrient-packed fruit than its flesh — everything from the seeds to the skin can be enjoyed in your cooking, too. Skip the pumpkin pie this year and whip up one of these nourishing, pumpkin-loaded dishes instead.
Roast the Seeds
Pumpkin seeds not only fulfill your crunchy-food craving, but they can also improve your regularity, reduce your cholesterol levels, and help you maintain a healthy weight thanks to their high fiber content. One cup of pumpkin seeds also has nearly one-sixth of the daily recommended amount of potassium, according to the USDA, and its substantial magnesium levels aid in blood pressure and blood sugar regulation.
If you’re a traditionalist, top the seeds with sea salt, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and a drizzle of olive oil, then pop them into a 300-degree oven for about 45 minutes until golden and crisp. For an unconventional flavor profile, sprinkle the seeds with a dill pickle seasoning blend made of white vinegar, dill, garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper. The seeds work well in combination with other fibrous bites, too: combine roasted, lightly salted pumpkins seeds with pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, and dried blueberries and cranberries for an energy-boosting trail mix.
Fix a Seasonal Dip
When it comes to crafting pumpkin dishes, a food processor is your right-hand man. In a twist on traditional pesto, purée the pumpkin seeds with avocado, which takes the place of olive oil, for a mix that’s packed with vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. This six-ingredient blend works as both as a light, zesty sauce for pasta or a colorful dip for your baguette. To transform the flesh of the pumpkin into a dessert-ready dip, purée one cup of pumpkin with Greek yogurt, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
More: Pumpkin Chocolate Mousse
Bake the Flesh
With almost two times the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, cooked pumpkin is an ideal food to help maintain heart, lung, and vision health. This super-food can even promote glowing skin; the gourd is high in beta-carotene, which research has shown can help protect your skin against harmful UV rays and maintain skin health and appearance. Plus, the gourd’s high vitamin C count will support your body in absorbing the iron found in plant-based foods.
This season, capitalize on pumpkin’s nutritional value by choosing to make a simple, yet savory baked dish over a sugary dessert. Try cutting the pumpkin into small cubes and combining it with shallots, then tossing the two with olive oil, sage, salt, and pepper before roasting them in the oven for half an hour.
Blend Your Own Butter
To get the health benefits of both pumpkin seeds and flesh in one spread, fix your own nut butter. Start by removing the shells from the seeds and baking them for 8-12 minutes. Then, blend them in a food processor and add one cup of pumpkin flesh. From there, embrace your inner-Chopped champion. Experiment with add-ins like flax seeds and almonds, which will infuse extra nutrients into the butter, and spices like cayenne or cinnamon for a spicy or sweet spread.
Make Chips From Scratch
Pumpkin chips are a healthy alternative to their potato counterparts, which are often high in fat and sodium, and because they’re baked, these crisps do away with unnecessary oil. Simply use a peeler to remove the skin from the pumpkin and coat the thin slices with extra virgin olive oil, paprika, chili powder, and sea salt. Then, place them on a cookie sheet and pop them into a 400-degree oven. After baking the chips for 25 minutes, put on your favorite Halloween flick and munch away.
Use the Skin as a Garnish
While you may not love the flavor of pumpkin, the gourd’s amber hue can make your dish look as though it was prepared in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Use baked strips of pumpkin skin, which can be made in the same way as the chips, as a garnish on fresh veggie platters, hearty stews, and even pumpkin soups. Your guests will be thoroughly impressed!